Fine dining fare meets casual costs at these upscale spots.
Edited by Beth Stallings; by Chuck Bowen, Jennifer Bowen, Katie Dragga, Christina Ipavec, Jason Lloyd, Brittany Moffat, Andy Netzel, Kim Schneider, Colleen Smitek, Beth Stallings, Erick Trickey, Michelle Venorsky and Jim Vickers
You can walk into one of the city’s more innovative restaurants and get lunch for what you’d drop at IHOP. Must we go on? Chef Matthew Mathlage recently brought his eye for culinary detail to the lunch-hour crowd. Take his crab cake sandwich, for example: Served on a refreshingly sturdy and crusty white bun, the crab cake is flaky, moist and perfectly crisp on the edges. Then, there’s the aioli sauce, locally grown tomato and stack of pomme frites. Or opt for a side of seasonal melon for a lighter route. And, unlike your normal lunch spot, you have access to an amazing wine list. Go ahead, it’s after noon.
Walking through the swank lobby of the InterContinental Hotel and into the sleek confines of Table 45 feels like an expensive stroll. But fear not. The restaurant also offers its own form of respite from the recession. At $15, the roasted eggplant entree is the cheapest on the menu, but it doesn’t cut any corners in communicating chef Zack Bruell’s brand of global fusion. The superb Italian-Mediterranean mix is a tower of warm sliced eggplant and tomatoes, topped with pomegranate syrup and feta. Yogurt sauce with toasted pine nuts completes the mix of tastes and textures. The entree, along with the complimentary crusty bread and olive oil, is a filling meal. But, if you so choose, you’ll still have enough room left to split one of Table 45’s tasty $8 desserts.
The bar at Delmonico’s Steakhouse is all elegant dark wood and soft lighting. It’s a throwback to an era when a man never worried about what eating a huge hunk of beef would do to his cholesterol level. It’s also a place where you can slide by for a great and relatively inexpensive bite to eat when you don’t have the time or budget to enjoy one of Delmonico’s outstanding steak entrees, which range from $23 to $38. Instead, grab a seat along the drink rail, ask for a bar menu, and order the smothered chopped steak. It’s an enormous beef patty drowned in roasted peppers and onions and served with a generous side of garlic mashed potatoes. You’ll have a tough time determining which side of the plate you love more. And if you visit early, you can get it for $6 — all bar menu selections are half-price from 3 to 6 p.m.
It may seem gluttonous to indulge in a pasta dish that combines not only bacon and chicken but also a double dose of Gruyere and Parmesan cheese at lunchtime. But this is too good to pass up. The popular Warehouse District restaurant gives traditional mac and cheese an upscale twist, using orecchiette pasta and a layer of crunchy bread crumbs to add to the nutty flavors coming from the stronger, potent cheeses. And the rich dish comes overflowing on your plate, so you can either stuff yourself silly or box it up for more devilish delight later. Budget-friendly and comforting all at once. That doesn’t seem like a sin to us.
Atlantic Salmon BLT Pier W 12700 Lake Ave., Lakewood (216) 228-2250 pierw.com
Pier W is the kind of place that provides an experience as much as it does a meal. Both are excellent. Offering an unrivaled view of Lake Erie and downtown, the restaurant draws both special-occasion diners and coat-and-tie regulars. It also has the entree prices to match. But Pier W’s bar menu offers a way to sample the legendary seafood place for a fraction of the price. We like the Atlantic Salmon BLT: fresh, medium-cooked salmon topped with crunchy bacon strips, a thick slice of tomato, lettuce and house-made mayo. It’s served open-face style with a side of french fries and probably best tackled with a knife and fork. Drop by early (4 to 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday) and select bar menu items are half-price.
The döner at Anatolia Café, Cleveland Heights’ Turkish restaurant, spreads across the plate like a vast landscape: Piles of shaved lamb make up more than half of the dish and push the scoop of rice and mixed seasonal vegetables practically off the edge. The döner’s skewer-roasted lamb will remind some diners of shwarma and others of gyro meat. What really makes the dish a bargain at $12.99 (eat-in or carryout) is that you cannot eat it all in one sitting. No matter how carnivorous, how famished you are, it doesn’t matter. No matter how much you love the tang of shwarma-style lamb — the döner is two meals. Somewhere near the halfway point of your dinner, it’ll hit you, and you’ll plead for a to-go container.
Herbed Chicken Tartine Tartine Bistro 19110 Old Detroit Road, Rocky River (440) 331-0800 tartinebistro.com
Let’s be honest. At its core, a tartine is really nothing more than a belly-stuffing open-faced sandwich. But as much of a pain as the French can be, we can all agree that they have a way with food. They originally concocted these piled-on creations as a way to use up leftovers. But there’s nothing about Tartine Bistro’s herbed chicken version served with greens ($11 for dinner, $9 for lunch) that says last night’s dinner. A baguette is cut on the bias and topped with chicken roasted with herbes de provence and local gala apples. Those ingredients are made decadent by the addition of Swiss cheese and cranberry aioli. It’s a crunchy, creamy feast with a tart undertone that will make you forget every gravy-laden horror of an open-face you’ve ever had.
Braised Beef ‘Ropa Vieja’ Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar 28601 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere (216) 896-9020 paladarlatinkitchen.com
We know it violates our $15 price limit by a buck, but this huge helping of Latin comfort food is worth it. Unless you have the heartiest of appetites, you’ll be boxing some up for home. Although Paladar offers a number of steak, pork or seafood dishes, which range from around $17 to $29, you’ll find equally tasty, less expensive options under the comfort food portion of the menu. Our favorite is the braised beef “ropa vieja.” (Get it at lunch for $12.95, or enjoy the appetizer portion any time for $9.95.) The slow-cooked shredded steak is served over sweet plantains, rice pilaf and adobo black beans and topped with red onion, jicama slaw and spicy aji pepper sauce. It’s a tasty marriage of heat and sweet.